The Department of Disaster Management (Dodma) has asked Mzuzu City Council to relocate thousands of residents who occupy wetlands where they are at a risk of floods and other disasters.
The department’s principal secretary Ben Botolo on Monday described the devastating effects of the prevailing torrential rains that have hit about 5 500 people and killed eight in Mzuzu as a wake-up call against squatter settlements that keep mushrooming in perilous areas, especially known waterways.
Botolo was speaking in an interview ahead of an emergency trip to the worst hit township by Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is Minister for Disaster Management Affairs.
The principal secretary acknowledged his department was taken unawares by Mzuzu’s tragedy, but insisted: “Having visited some of the devastated area, it is clear that relocation is vital in the medium term because most of the affected settings are either swampy or prone to landslides.”
The remarks pile pressure on the council which town planning specialist Mtafu Manda accused of laxity and failure to enforce do’s and dont’s regulating where and how people can build in the city marred by squatter camps.
The worst-hit zones include rapid assessments marshy townships of Chibavi, Chibanja, Zolozolo East and Mchengautuwa as well as the hilly Masasa.
According to rapid assessments by the council, the devastation includes 58 houses in Masasa, 47 in Chibanja, 19 in Zolozolo, 11 in Msongwe and two in Katawa.
Most of the settlements are informal settlements and not plots allotted by the council, Mzuzu chief executive officer Macleoud Kadammanja concurred.
Kadammanja has asked well-wishers to continue supporting hundreds of households that are living in survivors’ camps across the city.
The Vice-President makes a trip to Mzuzu barely after President Peter Mutharika asked Malawians to pray for the deceased and lend a hand to those living in destitution. Dodma has since dispatched 500 bags of maize to ease the plight of the displaced community, a council official said.